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Greenspan Says Worker Training
Increasingly Vital to Economy

By Alice Ann Love   Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said today that even with the strong economy and low unemployment, rapid technological changes mean American businesses and workers will continue to face insecurities unless there are improvements in job training.

"The rapidity of innovation and the unpredictability of the directions it may take imply a need for considerable investment in human capital," Greenspan said.

Greenspan spoke at an all-day conference on job skills, hosted by the Labor Department on the campus of Howard University, a historically black college in the nation's capital.

The central bank chairman said fears that workers would be displaced by new technology have proven largely unfounded.

"Rather, the recent period of technological innovation has created a vibrant economy in which opportunities for new jobs and businesses have blossomed," Greenspan said.

However, it has been difficult to predict what kind of labor needs new discoveries will create, he added. Greenspan noted that government employment projections in the early 1980s overestimated the need for computer operators and data-entry workers, not anticipating that computers would become so easy to use that these specialized job categories would fade.

For workers, "a rapidly evolving work environment in which the skill demands of their jobs are changing can lead to very real anxiety and insecurity about losing their jobs," said Greenspan.

Businesses should not expect academic institutions alone to create the pool of skilled workers they will need, he said.

"We need to foster a flexible education system — one that integrates work and training and that serves the needs both of experienced workers at different stages in their careers and of students embarking on their initial course of study," Greenspan said.

Business partnerships with community colleges and public agencies, "distance learning" over the Internet and corporate universities will play an increasingly important role, he said.

Today's job skills conference also included panel and round-table discussions among business, labor and academic leaders.

With unemployment the lowest in three decades, U.S. jobs are plentiful and some companies report having trouble finding qualified workers to fill positions. However, many unskilled workers are still encountering barriers to finding jobs with good wages and benefits.

"I have often said that we do not have a worker shortage in this country, but a skills shortage," said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

Among topics discussed at the conference: innovative strategies for recruiting and training workers and overcoming other hiring obstacles, such as lack of transportation and child care.

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